I’m one of those people who has a lot of stuff. Piles of things I need to hand, items which don’t find their way back to their homes (if they even have one), and just generally too much stuff. I’ve started decluttering using the Kon Mari method and haven’t yet started the paper task, which is going to be scary.
But that’s real and physical items. My virtual world is quite different.
At work, we’re paperless where possible which really helps. Also, hot-desking prevents me accumulating too much in the way of papers and things. I have a locker, a day to day small box to put post its, stationery, charger and cables, but otherwise I have a notepad and everything else is stored online. Nicely, using folders (I still need to work on the paperfree thing at home though).
When it comes to organising emails, I’m definitely someone who has a tidy inbox. The thought of opening up my email to find thousands of red unread emails is traumatising (not to say rude to the sender if it’s an important piece of information you need to respond to).
I’ve used a few email systems over my time at work and home. Outlook and Lotus notes at work, and then online email programmes at home.
I find I have an efficient way of dealing with my inbox, and wanted to share. Hopefully those drowning under thousands of emails will find something of use in my organisation method.
It doesn’t matter which ones you use, as long as they’re accessible where you need them, and you can create folders or filters.
Personally, I have 3 email accounts:
1, Personal – with my internet provider
I don’t get junk here, it’s for friends, family, school notices, and personal work emails (so recruitment, job hunting, some blog expenses/web hosting etc). This is the main email I read on my phone, so anything that I’d need to read urgently I’ll likely sign up to it to receive emails here.
2, Formerly junk account, now also used for my blogging (Hotmail)
Lots of people suggest not having a free email account for blogging, but in 3 years of blogging I’ve never had anyone complain, and I still get sent a lot of opportunities. The reason I didn’t set up a specific blog email address was because 2 email accounts are enough to be going on with without having to log out and in again. I’ve tried it before with other business accounts and it was a pain in the neck.
This account was originally set up when I was a serious comper – all newsletters, social media notifications, blog subscription newsletters and online shopper orders come in to this account. I’ve recently started organising this email account better so I can immediately see my blog emails coming in without wading through 500 emails a day to get to them.
3, The no-choice account (Gmail)
This is my no-choice account, created by google so I can access Google+ and all those other things that you need a gmail account to sign up for them. I rarely use gmail. I dread to think how many emails are in there, but it’s not a programme I wanted or am likely to switch to unless hotmail goes. I have a couple of notifications come through from it on my phone so I can read urgent things, but mostly it’s rubbish that I don’t care about.Find the email system that works for you. For ease set up several accs through 1 system or set them to auto-forward to your main email acc Click To Tweet
Day to day email management
There’s many ways to manage your emails. For me, I like to have white space in my inbox (work especially) so I’m ruthless in deleting emails that I don’t need. Otherwise I use a lot of folders for information I may need to refer back to in future.
My email management process:
1. Have regular inbox check in times
I was once told that having email notifications on is the least productive thing you can do. Each time you read an email it’s potentially 4 minutes out of your day. If you act on it, it can take a lot more than that. So the advice is usually choose a time to read and deal with emails, and stick to it.
I check mine in the morning, after lunch and last thing (that can be at work, or in the evening at home). If you have set times, other people will get to know this, and there’ll be less expectation that you’ll respond regularly throughout the day.
Going against the recommended advice, I do check mine at work when I get notifications in. Then I can delete, quick respond, or leave for later. I’d rather do that, than have a sea of red for the next time I check. If you get distracted easily, then stick to turning off notifications.
2, Use filters or rulesEmail systems have rules to make life easier. Use them to help store, divert, delete or show the urgent emails Click To Tweet
- Colours – set up emails to come through in different colours depending on the sender. So all my emails from my boss are in blue, the team purple etc.
- Auto delete or clutter – we all get blanket emails sent that you never open (mine’s the ‘coffee man is here’ daily email). You can filter these so they automatically go to a junk folder, or delete
- By topic – Filter by topic into different folders. Then you can work through each in turn
- CC’d only – if you get cc’d on lots of email that are for info or there’s no action, then get them auto sent to a ‘for info’ folder
3, Use folders
Some people like to keep thousands of emails in their inbox, and then just search. But when you have that many emails, search doesn’t always work that efficiently. So folders will help.
Choose your folders and stick with them. You can have sub-folders but don’t go too over the top or you won’t be able to find emails again.
Key folders I use
- Inbox – anything immediate and urgent, or anything I’m still to do a first respond to
- Pending – anything I’m working on over time
- Personal or work – depending on whether it’s my personal or work email account
- To read – non-urgent, resources or articles that I don’t have time to immediately read, or ‘for info’ emails at work.
- N – School/nursery
- Member details – ie any login information, passwords, because I never remember them and if my pc upgrades it loses all my password memory.
- Work completed
- Contacts / Opportunities turned down – ideally I transfer these into my contacts list (but I’m a bit slack at doing this), but it’s handy to know and keep a record of what’s been said in the past.
- Blogs to read
Once you have your folders, each email you need to read, respond then put in a folder. Folders are fluid, so don’t forget to move things out of pending once completed.
I delete a lot. Yes, some emails I do keep for records, but I delete a lot more.
If you don’t want to delete, then use archive. Most of the time you don’t go back to old projects, or emails from 2 years ago, so just have an archive folder for a previous year and sweep everything from that time into it that you don’t need to keep.
Don’t forget to delete sent items where you don’t need a record kept, and every few months, you can go through and check folders for anything that can be deleted. My theory is that if I’ve not gone into the folder for the last 3 months, there’s probably a lot that can go.
If you’re swamping under lots of junk mail, or have subscriptions that you want to keep but don’t need to read daily, then use a service like Unroll.me.
This website/app has saved my email of chaos. It works by connecting with your email (outlook.com, gmail, yahoo, aol and google apps), allowing you to unsubscribe from the emails you no longer want to receive (just tick the box to unsubscribe) and then you call roll up any remaining emails of your choice into the daily roll up digest. You can choose when you receive your digest, and you can amend it at anytime.
It takes some time (30 mins to an hour) to tick all your unsubscribes, and then ‘adding to roll up’, but once it’s done, that’s it. You can amend as and when you get your roll ups – unsubscribe, resubscribe etc and it will just update. I love it, and it now means that the majority of the time I go into my hotmail, everything there is related to my blog and needs to be opened and read.
Ok, the occasional subscription I do let through, but most shop newsletters, offers, flash sale sites etc go in my roll up and I just flick down the one email once a day.Use https://unroll.me/ to easily clear out your email of junk or greymail, and access needed emails faster Click To Tweet
There are obviously lots of different methods of organising emails, so here’s some useful other articles which may help
- How to clean up your inbox
- Stop organising email folders, search emails (my worst nightmare, but a how to and why here)
- An email fanatic’s guide to organising your inbox
So that’s my tips for how to organise emails. What methods do you use? Share your tips below.
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